A misnomer?

Posted: Dec 05, 2003 12:00 AM

 Back in the 1990s, Jesse Helms became a conservative icon and earned the nickname “Senator No.” He made a living opposing the Clinton administration’s policies, priorities and nominees. He did everything he could to “conserve” the status quo.
Strangely, these days it’s the liberals, or as they prefer to be called, progressives, who want to “conserve.” Or, even better, return to those halcyon days of yesteryear.

 Here are a handful of things conservatives have attempted to do in recent years:

  • Pushed for tax cuts to get the economy moving.
  • Won a bruising legal battle to prove that school vouchers are indeed constitutional.
  • Opened a new front in the war against terrorism by deposing Saddam Hussein.

Now consider the “progressive” responses:

  • No, won’t work.
  • No, won’t work.
  • No, won’t work.

Think that’s unfair? Well, two years after the first Bush tax cuts allowed Americans to keep more of their money, the economy is booming. More than 1 million new jobs were added last year. Wages and earnings increased 2.4 percent. Gross Domestic Product soared by an astonishing 8.2 percent in the third quarter. The tax cuts are working. No wonder conservatives want to make them, and thus their benefits, permanent.

Despite that evidence, presidential candidate Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., calls President Bush’s handling of the economy “a miserable failure.” His solution? Repeal the tax cuts (thus returning us to the status quo of Jan. 2001) and spend the “savings” to provide universal health care.

That’s a bad idea. Repealing the tax cuts would amount to slapping Americans with a large tax hike. It would stop the recovery in its tracks and might even push us back into recession. But Gephardt represents current left-wing thinking -- virtually all so-called “progressives” want to repeal Bush’s tax cuts.

How about school vouchers? Well, they work. For example, an August 2000 study of students in grades 2 through 8 showed African-American students in the District of Columbia, New York City and Dayton, Ohio outscored their public-school classmates after they transferred to private schools with the help of vouchers.

That’s not good enough for “progressive” former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. “I strongly oppose voucher programs, which divert taxpayer money to private schools and weaken our public school system,” Dean said in September. His answer? “Increase funding for elementary and secondary education improvement.”

 But more spending doesn’t mean better results. Look again at the District of Columbia. Per-student spending here is third highest in the nation, but student achievement is dead last. That’s why a bipartisan group of politicians, including U.S. senators and the Democratic D.C. mayor (who opposed them for years before finally coming around), support a voucher program.

 How about the war on terrorism? Earlier this year, the United States led a successful coalition effort into Iraq to depose a terrorist-supporting dictator. Saddam Hussein paid blood money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. He massacred more than half a million of his own people. And a recent government memo proves he had close ties with Osama bin Laden.

 Today, American troops are serving bravely in Iraq, helping to build a democratic  government that will provide a model for the entire Middle East. Progressives think that’s a bad idea.

 “[President Bush] has pursued the most arrogant, inept, reckless, and ideological foreign policy in modern history,” announced Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in a recent speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. He put his money where his month is by voting against the president’s $87 billion package to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan.

 His solution? Punt. Turn operations over to the United Nations. Fellow “progressive” Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, was first to press this approach. “We need to get the U.N. in and the U.S. out of Iraq,” he says.

 But the U.N. can’t possibly handle this job. When terrorists bombed U.N. headquarters in August, virtually the entire U.N. staff withdrew from Iraq. Only the United States has the will and the might to rebuild Iraq. And rebuilding it is the only way we’ll make any progress in the Middle East, and thus the war on terrorism.

One would expect “progressives” to want to make progress -- move forward -- while “conservatives” might be expected to want to stand still. However, that’s clearly not the case. Today, all the successful ideas are coming from the right.

Liberals can change their labels, but unless they change their policies, they’ll have no progress to crow about.